FRED and Ginger were a great pair, but now try pairing ginger with pork chops, or scallops. Peeled, then sliced, chopped, minced or grated, fresh ginger can be rechanneled from its gingerbread-man mode to stir-frys, soups and ices and as an addition to curries and chutneys, to dishes Chinese, Japanese, American.
Those gnarled antler-like stems of the ginger plant come from the plant's rhizome, not the root. (A rhizome is loosely called a root, but differs because of its leaves or shoots. It also produces its own roots.) Thriving in warm, moist climates, the rhizome is dug and used fresh, pickled and candied, or it basks in the tropical sun, dries up and is sold whole or ground.
While ground ginger is probably the most popular form of the spice in Western culture ("It's a big seller . . . a major baking spice in the fall," said McCormick & Co.'s Polly Murray), the fresh stuff doesn't get much play here. "The demand is small," said Peter Van Chaik of the USDA horticultural field station in Fresno, Calif.
The demand may be small, but the supply is growing. According to Rosaline Ishisaka, a commodities inspector at the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture in Hilo, Hawaiian farmers got such a good return on their last year's 3.6 million pound ginger crop, that they stepped up plantings, and this year expect close to 6 million pounds.
Aside from Hawaii, another major producer of ginger--grown expressly for its sale as fresh ginger root--is the Fiji Islands, one of the British commonwealths in the southwest Pacific. (Hawaiian ginger is "larger, plumper than Fijian ginger," claimed Ishisaka.) In 1981, the Fijis sold $1.47 million worth of ginger to the United States.
Fresh ginger is preserved by refrigeration; some cookbooks recommend placing the fresh root stem in white cooking wine or sherry to extend its life even longer, or burying it in a pot of earth.
Although Boris Ballard of the local wholesale house National Produce said his most of ginger clients are oriental restaurants, the spice need not be confined to any particular cuisine. Here is a sampling of multi-ethnic fresh ginger recipes from local restaurants. 209 1/2 GINGER-MARINATED PORK CHOPS (4 servings)
209 1/2 serves these chops as part of a mixed grill that includes calves liver and baby lamb chops. The dish is served with a mustard-hollandaise sauce, deviled bacon, zucchini parmesan pancakes and fresh cranberry-orange relish. 1 teaspoon dried oregano or 3 sprigs fresh 2 cloves garlic, minced 3 sprigs fresh parsley, minced 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 4 6-ounce center-cut pork chops
Combine oregano, garlic, parsley and ginger. Mix with oil until well coated. Spread over pork chops and let marinate 24 hours in the refrigerator.
Broil or grill chops, about 15 minutes, turning once. SICHUAN GARDEN KUNG PAO SCALLOPS (2 servings)
This dish was created by Hai Wan Wu, one of the 17 chefs brought to the new 19th Street NW restaurant from China's Sichuan province. Wu is the master chef in charge of fish and chicken dishes. For the scallops: 1 pound sea scallops, cut in half, vertically 1/2 egg white Cornstarch Pinch of salt 1/4 teaspoon white pepper Vegetable oil 5 cloves garlic, minced 4 teaspoons finely chopped scallions 2 dried red peppers, crumbled 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger 2 teaspoons dry white wine (Sichuan rice wine, if possible) 3 1/2 ounces unsalted peanuts For the sauce: 1 tablespoon rice vinegar 1 teaspoon sugar 4 teaspoons chicken broth or water 1 tablespoon mushroom soy sauce (substitute regular soy sauce)
Slice scallops and dry with a towel. Combine sliced scallops with the egg white. Turn until well coated. Sprinkle cornstarch on scallops, then salt and pepper. Turn until coated, draining any excess water.
Pour in enough oil to coat wok. Heat until very hot. Stir-fry scallops quickly, about 30 seconds. Remove and drain. Add another tablespoon or so of oil to the wok, making sure it is very hot. Add garlic, scallion, dried red peppers (with seeds) and ginger. Stir-fry until you begin to smell it, about 10 seconds. Quickly add scallops and turn once. Add wine immediately and stir-fry briefly. Add sauce and stir-fry another 20 to 30 seconds. Add peanuts and quickly stir fry. Serve with rice. FOOD FOR THOUGHT'S GINGERBREAD (Makes a 9-by-13-inch cake)
Strands of fresh ginger threads pull out as you fork this homey, richly gingered cake from the Connecticut Avenue restaurant. 2 eggs 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon molasses 10 tablespoons butter, melted 1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon honey 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 3/4 tablespoons baking soda 2 teaspoons cinnamon 1/2 cup freshly grated ginger 1 cup boiling water Butter for greasing pan Freshly whipped cream for serving
Cream eggs, molasses, butter and honey. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and ginger. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and mix well. Add boiling water and mix well. Pour into a buttered 9-by-13-inch pan and bake 1 hour at 325 degrees. Serve with freshly whipped cream. INSIDE SCOOP'S MARCO POLO ICE CREAM (Makes 6 to 8 cups)
Inside Scoop's Meryl Klein said she learned how to make ice cream two weeks before she and her partners opened their 19th Street ice cream parlor. Like other ice cream parlors in the city, Klein's adds spices, flavorings and condiments to a prepared ice cream mix of cream, sugar and milk. This is adapted for home use. 3 cups heavy cream 1 1/2 cups whole milk 3/4 cup sugar 4 egg yolks 1 ounce ginger root, peeled and cut thinly (1 to 1 1/2 inch piece)
Heat cream, 1 cup of the milk and sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan until sugar dissolves. Whisk the yolks and while still whisking, slowly pour hot mixture into them. Pour in the rest of the cream-sugar-milk mixture and continue whisking until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 8 minutes. Be careful not to let it come near boiling point. (After removing from heat, this can sit as you do the other step).
Place ginger root into 1/2 cup milk and cook over low heat for 1 hour. Set aside to cool at room temperature (do not refrigerate). Remove skin from surface. Strain out ginger and discard. (If you especially like ginger, you can strain it out, mince it and put it back into milk. Also, the longer you let the ginger sit in the milk, the better.)
Add the ginger-flavored milk to ice cream mixture and process according to ice cream freezer directions.